Blog Post, Book Recommendation, Uncategorized

#FridayFive: November 9th, 2018

November 9, 2018

#FridayFive: November 9th, 2018

We’re back with another list of five recent releases worth your child’s (and your) time! This week ranges from biographies to graphic novels and nonfiction. If you missed any of the previous weeks’ lists, including graphic novel biographies of women and graphic memoirs by women, go to our blog archives for more recommendations by Mia and her staff.

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library

Carole Boston Weatherford, ill. Eric Velasquez

If your child reads just one picture book biography this year, let it be this one. Arturo Schomburg isn’t a household name, but after finishing this extraordinary title, we think perhaps it should be. An Afro-Puerto Rican bibliophile and incredible self-taught scholar, Schomburg personally assembled what is now considered the world’s foremost collection of black excellence in the forms of books, art, music, and ephemera, aiming to debunk claims of racial inferiority. His superb life’s work is housed today in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. Why is this book important? It will make kids think about how history is made, shaped, and reshaped, encouraging them to question the narratives they encounter in school, in the media they consume, and elsewhere, and to think critically.


Lorena Alvarez

Spooky, gorgeous, and awash in atmosphere, this graphic short story may surprise you given the undeniable, Studio Ghibli-style cuteness of its protagonist and her artwork. Bright, inquisitive Sandy attends a strict Catholic school, where hypercritical nuns’ eyes constantly scan students to find fault, but all she wants to do is draw. Her mother is distracted and her dreams are filled with spectacular images that she puts down on paper upon waking. When a mysteries new classmate named Morfie takes an interest in Sandy and her talents, is something more sinister afoot? Best for older readers given the frightening qualities of the story.

Back from the Brink: Saving Animals from Extinction

Nancy F. Castaldo

When an animal is removed from the Endangered Species list, how exactly has that been accomplished? Castaldo provides detailed answers for kids who love animals and want to protect them, giving case studies of more than ten different species and speaking with the scientists committed to saving them. Side panels in the shape of spiral notebook pages are used to direct kids who’d like to help more to resources, give special anecdotes, and make other worthwhile side meanderings.

One Day a Dot: The Story of You, the Universe, and Everything

Ian Lendler, ill. Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb

Cosmology and evolutionary biology are not exactly kid’s stuff, yet Lendler and his collaborators have managed to make both comprehensible to young elementary aged children without grossly oversimplifying the science. With a handy timeline at the back, lively and appealing earth-toned illustrations, and commendably clear language, readers can get a feel for how the planet came to be and how human beings came to be as well. A kind of kid’s primer before A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, this one’s a well-crafted winner that curious minds will love.

Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World

Vashti Harrison

A follow-up to Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, Harrison’s focus here has shifted to women of all races and nations, with 40 profiles of scientists, artists, and more. Few names will already ring a bell with readers (Marie Curie and Frida Kahlo might), but that’s one of the best things about the book. With a glossary of key terms, this makes an excellent gateway book to more detailed biographies, although the uniformity of Harrison’s illustrative style is more of a hindrance than a help – why should such accomplished, bold women keep their gaze downcast? Still, this is a minor gripe with an inspiring volume.

Book Recommendation, Uncategorized

#FridayFive: November 2nd, 2018

November 2, 2018

#FridayFive: November 2nd, 2018

We’re back with another list of five recent releases worth your child’s (and your) time! If you missed the previous weeks’ lists, including graphic novel biographies of women and graphic memoirs by women, go to our blog archives for more recommendations by Mia and her staff.

I am Human
I Am Human: A Book of Empathy

Susan Verde, ill. Peter H. Reynolds

From the team behind I Am Yoga and I Am Peace, this celebration of compassion and universal experiences is just what is needed right now. All of us, at the end of the day, are human beings, which means, like the boy who narrates the book, we are “not perfect.” “I can hurt others with my words, my actions, and even my silence,” he reflects, going on to consider ways he can remedy it when he goes off-course. We can think of no message more necessary today.

Violette Around the World: 1. My Head in the Clouds

Teresa Radice, ill. Stefano Turconi

Originally published in Italy, this graphic novel romp stars Violette Vermeer, an adventurous, inquisitive 12-year-old and self-styled “citizen of the world” who makes the acquaintance of famed artist Henri de Toulouse Lautrec in Paris. Her father is an entomologist/insect trainer and her mother a human cannonball with the multilingual, ebullient Cirque de la Lune (“Circus of the Moon”), where Violette is a trapeze artist. With candy-colored, cartoonish illustrations and plenty of whimsy, this is a promising start to the series.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy

Tony Medina (ill. by 13 artists)

This gorgeous ode is lyrical, dignified, and affecting, with poems ranging from joyous to wrenching (“Every breath I take is taxed/The kind of life where/I’ll have to take out a loan/To pay back them other loans”). In popular culture, black boys are so often reduced to stereotypes, and it’s wonderful to see Medina giving a wide swath of experiences and perspectives to counteract those harmful images. The wildly different thirteen black artists he recruited to illustrate his poems only serve to broaden his canvas further, and biographies of each are included at the book’s end.

Akissi: Tales of Mischief

Marguerite Abouet, ill. Mathieu Sapin

Acclaimed Côte d’Ivoire author Abouet has created an indelible character is Akissi, a little girl so mischievous and funny she could easily be taken for a mythical Trickster. This is a marvelous slice of Abouet’s Ivory Coast childhood, with plenty of humor, delightfully realistic family interactions, and gross-out situations (Akissi’s pet monkey, Boubou, is recruited to eat lice off her head at one point, for instance, and another episode has Akissi contracting worms) that give it an irresistible liveliness.

Space Cat

Ruthven Todd, ill. Paul Galdone

Technically not a new release (it was first published in 1952) but newly re-issued, this classic tale of a cat-stronaut will delight elementary-aged readers despite its vintage. After stowing away on a plane, intrepid and adorable kitten Flyball makes his way to the moon itself, where he explores in a custom-made space suit, makes up silly songs, and reacts to his new surroundings in a charmingly feline way. The first of four books about Flyball, this is a great read-aloud for parents and children to share together.

Book Recommendation, Listicles, Uncategorized

Chocolate-Coated Reads

October 28, 2018

Get ready to salivate: October 28th is National Chocolate Day, and you know you want a tasty book to tide you over until the actual candy rolls in come Halloween night. This list has a morsel of everything: chapter books, nonfiction, picture books, and more. Here are some of our favorite chocoholic reads to tantalize your taste buds.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

How could any list of chocolate-themed reads leave out this perennial classic? Poor and hungry Charlie Bucket wins a Golden Ticket to see his idol, Willy Wonka, in person and tour his amazing chocolate factory. The result is one of our all-time favorite stories.

2. The Chocolate Touch – Patrick Skene Catling

Wouldn’t it be amazing if everything you touched turned to chocolate? In a creative twist on the tale of King Midas, our hero, John, accidentally brings his gifts to bear on his mom and must find a way to get her back.

The Candymakers – Wendy Mass

Four kids must choose a winner in a confection competition that will make you green with envy. A fantastic choice for fans of The Westing Game and Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, this surprisingly heartfelt and tender read is often categorized as YA and best for older readers and is written from multiple characters’ perspectives.

Whopper Cake – Karma Wilson

This verse-based story is just plain fun: chaotic, messy, and perfect for younger readers to enjoy independently or by reading aloud to or with a parent. Crazy ingredients pile on as the titular confection increases as grandpa “traumatize[s] the kitchen” in his attempts to make a suitably spectacular cake for his wife’s birthday.

No Monkeys, No Chocolate – Melissa Stewart and Allen Young

Best for older elementary and early middle school readers, this nonfiction picture book is replete with humor and excellent information about the many plants and animals that must work together for cacao beans – and likewise, chocolate – to exist. Anyone who appreciates chocolate and wants to understand its origins should give this a read.

Chocolate Fever – Robert Kimmel Smith

First published in 1972, this classic wonders what would become of a boy who ate chocolate at every meal, to the exclusion of all else. Would he, indeed, break out in chocolatey brown spots, becoming an overnight medical curiosity? Though some of its language is dated, this is a charming read-aloud or independent venture.

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake – Michael B. Kaplan

“I am going to marry chocolate cake,” Betty Bunny declares, stashing a piece in her pocket. Thus begins a parable of patience starring a little girl whose own parents refer to her as “a handful” and who is not above smuggling cake in her sock. Betty is far from a heroine worthy of emulation, but just about anyone can relate to her.

Hot Fudge: Bunnicula and Friends #2 – James Howe

Remember, kids: in real life, chocolate is poisonous to dogs and should never be given to them. But for Harold Monroe, the scruffy hero of Bunnicula, chocolate is love; chocolate is life. Adult, longtime fans of Bunnicula may not know that an Easy Reader series based on the original novel was released starting in 2005; this chocolate-centric volume is the second in the series and will enable younger children to enjoy these beloved characters on their own.


Panels from Anne Frank graphic novel
Book Recommendation, Listicles, Uncategorized

#FridayFive: October 26th, 2018

October 26, 2018

You’ll recall that Mia Learning is committed to empowering girls and gender non-binary kids. In that vein, last week‘s #FridayFive introduced five graphic novel memoirs by women. To follow-up, this week we’ve got five graphic novel women’s biographies. Even today, the vast majority of juvenile biographies still cover men’s lives: make sure your child knows that women are just as worthy of commemoration as men are.

Anne Frank cover
Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography

Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón

Although in no way a replacement for Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl (more a companion piece to it), this graphic biography is packed with information, beautifully illustrated, and complemented by resources for further reading, photographs, and timelines. It provides context for the events the diary itself recounted and helps readers get to know Anne’s family members better.

Wilma Rudolph cover
Wilma Rudolph: Olympic Track Star

Allison Lassieur, Ill. Cynthia Martin and Anne Timmons

From the all-around excellent Graphic Library biography series (which also includes volumes on Eleanor Roosevelt, Sacagawea, Florence Nightingale, Mary “Mother” Jones, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Blackwell, Betsy Ross, Bessie Coleman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Clara Barton, Molly Pitcher, and Amelia Earhart) comes the truly amazing story of Wilma Rudolph, who overcame childhood polio to become a Olympic champion runner. If Kathleen Krull’s 1996 picture book biography is perhaps a better choice for older readers (it’s become a classroom staple), Lassieur’s graphic novelization is still a fantastic introduction to Rudolph’s life and accomplishments for the younger set.

Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa: Saint of the Slums

Lewis Helfand, Ill. Sachin Nagar

Beautifully illustrated in serene watercolors and filled with emotionally poignant scenes, this is an excellent choice for older readers, especially those who are inclined to activism and social justice work. With an appealing mixture of anecdotes, facts, and invented dialogue, this reverent but accurate biography will serve as an inspiration to anyone longing to make a difference.

Anne Sullivan cover
Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller

Joseph Lambert

So few titles for kids explicitly focus on Annie Sullivan, yet Helen Keller’s story would never have unfolded as it did without her teacher’s staggering patience and compassion: such is the argument in this graphic biography from an alum of The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. Compulsively readable even when depicting Sullivan’s most frustrated and monotonous moments, it uses stunningly original illustrations to depict the relationship between student and teacher with tenderness and care. Winner of a Will Eisner Comic Industry Award (sort of an Academy Award for comics), this is an absolute must-read.

Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean

Sarah Stewart Taylor, ill. Ben Towle

Another title from The Center For Cartoon Studies, this one by a writing instructor and comics educator, remembers aviator extraordinaire Amelia Earhart. Both author and illustrator are at the top of their game here – in a limited palette of blue, white, and black, they focus on their subject’s legendary Atlantic crossing in 1928 while still giving sufficient attention to her tragic disappearance. Both introduction and backmatter are of great use here for kids interested in finding further details and reading more on Earhart.

We hope you will find time to read all of the #FridayFive this week! If you missed last week’s graphic memoirs or the prior week’s selections, check our blog archives for even more fantastic books.
Book Recommendation, Uncategorized

A Rainbow of Reads: 5 Picture Books for #NationalColorDay!

October 22, 2018

A Rainbow of Reads: 5 Picture Books for #NationalColorDay!

From classics like Planting a Rainbow and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? to simple concept collections, color-themed books for preschoolers are commonplace to the point of …saturation (no, we’re not sorry for the pun). They’re standard fare, along with counting, shapes, and the alphabet. But little ones don’t have the market cornered – for older readers (and remember, Mia users range from 7 to 12ish), fantastic hue-centric reads are out there, just waiting for you to feast your eyes on them. Here are some of our all-time colorful favorites:

The Rainbow Goblins cover
The Rainbow Goblins

Ul deRico

First published in 1978, this is an enduring classic tale of hungry goblins who subsist on color and have set their predatory sights on the poor rainbow, hoping to lasso it and fill their bellies with its riches. True, it can be a little strange (the Indigo goblin’s bottom makes more than a few appearances for some odd reason), but its gorgeous oil painting illustrations and elegant, archetypal storytelling make it perfect for older elementary schoolers.

The Day the Crayons Quit
The Day the Crayons Quit

Drew Daywalt, ill. Oliver Jeffers

Poor blue crayons – every time a kid draws the sky, they have to work so hard filling it. And green crayons are always being recruited to represent vegetation, but is that really fair? Wouldn’t it be crazy if your crayons expressed their grievances to you when you started to color? That’s just what happens to poor Duncan in this hilarious, original, and charming read.

lion.jpgThe Lion and the Little Red Bird

Elisa Kleven

This gentle-yet-joyous book is perfect for independent readers of early elementary age, with stunning colors and a host of different textures at play in the illustrations. Little Red Bird wonders why the lion she sees padding around from day to day has a tail that seems to change colors. When she discovers his colorful secret after he comes to her rescue during a storm, their friendship comes into full bloom.

stirpesA Bad Case of Stripes

David Shannon

What would you do if you woke up with your entire body covered in a rainbow of stripes but were completely healthy? Would you be able to go to school without letting it worry you what others might think or say? Can you stay true to yourself even with peer pressure bearing down on you? This modern classic has a fantastic message, and every page is a beautiful painting.

51-U044sNCL.jpgThe Gardener

Sarah Stewart, ill. David Small

An all-time favorite among Mia Learning’s writing staff, this Caldecott Honoree tells the Depression-era story of Lydia, whose misanthrope uncle and his bleak, grey city both need a healthy dose of color to cheer them up. With her suitcase full of seeds, plenty of determination, and a rooftop on which to grow her floral palette, Lydia beautifies her world and teaches readers valuable lessons about recycling, family ties, and having an open and generous spirit.

There were so many great books we could have listed here, and we wish this list were 500 books instead of just five. We hope you will check out all five of these colorful picture books in honor of #NationalColorDay and share your own favorites with Mia!